January 7, 2004

Neoconservatives under fire – and it's David Brooks to the barricades!

by Justin Raimondo

Wimpy wonky David Brooks, with his quiet mannerisms and good-little-boy demeanor, was really in danger of boring his readers to death. With his endless columns about nothing all that memorable, the latest addition to the ranks of New York Times columnists, in the words of one reader, "puts one to sleep by seeming reasonable in the same way that Mr. Bush claims to be compassionate." His latest piece, however, shows a passion previously absent from his efforts, as if a shot of literary adrenaline has been pumped into his veins, and no wonder: the poor little guy is defending himself and his fellow neoconservatives, who are suddenly under attack from both the right and the left.

Of course, he doesn't exactly get angry: that would be so un-David Brooks. Instead, he affects a tone of exasperation, like the sort of parent who quails when a bunch of unruly kids comes tramping into the house, soiling the carpet and raiding the refrigerator:

"Do you ever get the sense the whole world is becoming unhinged from reality? I started feeling that way awhile ago, when I was still working for The Weekly Standard and all these articles began appearing about how Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Doug Feith, Bill Kristol and a bunch of 'neoconservatives' at the magazine had taken over U.S. foreign policy."

As my longtime readers will tell you, I actually have had the sense that the whole world is becoming unhinged from reality. Ever since 9/11, which apparently tore a hole in the space-time continuum and plunged us all into a Bizarro World where everything – including traditional concepts of morality, and American foreign policy – is upended. Where once we pursued American interests, and eschewed empire-building as antithetical to our history and self-identity, the new announced policy of preemptive hegemonism might well have been taken from the pages of The Weekly Standard, perhaps from one of Max Boot's more extravagant flights of fancy. Bill Kristol and his friends have been agitating for years for precisely the policies that are now being implemented in the Middle East. Is it really all that surprising that journalists are now beginning to take notice?

As for the influence of Paul Wolfowitz – Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's chief lieutenant, and a leading neoconservative intellectual in his own right – does this really have to be proved? The Wolf has made his lair in and around the national security bureaucracy for some 30 years, upholding the same "Scoop Jackson Republican" views he held back in the early 1970s, when he first came to work at the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and was a Scoop Jackson Democrat. In the 1990s, having worked his way into the upper reaches of the Pentagon, he authored the infamous Wolfowitz Memorandum, a document that outlined a strategy whereby the U.S. would achieve dominance on every continent and preemptively attack any power that threatened to become a regional hegemon. As the Wolf gloated to Vanity Fair:

Wolfowitz: "Pat Buchanan's [A] Republic Not an Empire book spends its first chapter attacking the so-called Wolfowitz Memorandum."

Q: "Right, I know that book."

Wolf: "And he laments the fact that these same Democratic senators who were attacking – in his view, appropriately attacking – the Wolfowitz Memorandum, had climbed on board the whole policy when it became Clinton's policy in the mid 1990s. He's correct in saying that what was considered by the New York Times to be such an outrageous document was U.S. consensus foreign policy, but during the Clinton Administration, not in this Administration."

Wolfowitz has been tremendously influential, as even Brooks, after he regains his composure, is bound to admit. The same must be said for Richard Perle and Douglas Feith. The former, from his perch at the Defense Policy Board, and as a roving ambassador of ill will, whose uniformly bellicose pronouncements about everything from the French unwillingness to play the role of U.S. satellite, and the unsuitability of Vladimir Putin at the helm in Russia, have played havoc with our allies at a time when their assistance is invaluable. The latter wields considerable influence as the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy: together with Perle, Douglas Jay Feith is at the center of the neocon network in Washington. Feith headed up the "Office of Special Plans," the lie factory that churned out "intelligence" cooked to neocon specifications. Feith's office was also put in charge of post-war planning, and it was he who rejected carefully prepared studies made by the CIA and the State Department, whose analysts foresaw many of the problems and pitfalls that are killing American soldiers in increasing numbers.

Brooks, however, is oblivious to this history, writing:

"Theories about the tightly knit neocon cabal came in waves. One day you read that neocons were pushing plans to finish off Iraq and move into Syria. Web sites appeared detailing neocon conspiracies; my favorite described a neocon outing organized by Dick Cheney to hunt for humans. The Asian press had the most lurid stories; the European press the most thorough. Every day, it seemed, Le Monde or some deep-thinking German paper would have an exposé on the neocon cabal, complete with charts connecting all the conspirators.

"The full-mooners fixated on a think tank called the Project for the New American Century, which has a staff of five and issues memos on foreign policy. To hear these people describe it, PNAC is sort of a Yiddish Trilateral Commission, the nexus of the sprawling neocon tentacles."

What can one say about this alleged "neocon outing organized by Dick Cheney to hunt for humans"? He probably doesn't mean this parody page, or this. Aside from the crazed meanderings of a woman who claims to have been sexually abused, the only thing I can think of that fits his description is the Iraq war itself, which Cheney and his staff did so much to promote.

In any case, Brooks derides the "lurid" accounts of the neocons' influence that supposedly dominated the Asian media, and mocks the Germanic thoroughness of European chart-makers, but doesn't mention that the first and most comprehensive critiques of the neoconservative agenda were developed in America, on the left by people such as Jim Lobe, Michael Lind, and Sidney Blumenthal, and on the Right by Paul Gottfried, Patrick J. Buchanan, and myself.

Not that I'm demanding personal recognition from the high and mighty New York Times. But let's be clear: the idea of neoconservative hegemony on the Right, in the GOP, and within this administration is no foreign import, it's a concept made right here in America, on Main Street, USA, where resentment against the war has been steadily rising.

Widespread resentment of neocon policies is transformed, by Brooks, into ethnic hatred. A premonitory note of victimization was injected into his piece by the crack about the "Yiddish Trilateral Commission," which brings up the interesting point that Brooks can only manage to be funny when he's lying through his teeth, as the following also demonstrates:

"In truth, the people labeled neocons (con is short for 'conservative' and neo is short for 'Jewish') travel in widely different circles and don't actually have much contact with one another. The ones outside government have almost no contact with President Bush. There have been hundreds of references, for example, to Richard Perle's insidious power over administration policy, but I've been told by senior administration officials that he has had no significant meetings with Bush or Cheney since they assumed office. If he's shaping their decisions, he must be microwaving his ideas into their fillings."

This is identical to the argument made by neocon columnist Joel Mowbray, who, in smearing General Anthony Zinni as an "anti-Semite," averred that "neocon" is but a "code word" for a person of the Jewish faith. Even though the word "Jew" did not so much as pass Zinni's lips, that's what he "really" meant, says Mowbray – a belief that may or may not be a precursor symptom of Mad Cow Disease. Even the vehemently pro-war WorldNetDaily, which has made a veritable religion out of supporting the "liberation" of Iraq and following the neocon party line when it comes to foreign policy, found this a bit much.

Yet Brooks, the mild-mannered embodiment of sweet reason, has now taken up the practice of what I call mowbraying, which is a little like Mau-mauing was in the 1960s. Only now we are challenged by political correctness of the Right, with the neocons in the role once played by Black Panthers and 60s radicals, mollycoddled and immunized from criticism on account of their status as alleged idealists and aggrieved victims of ethnic prejudice.

This narrative is just as phony now as it was in 1968. No one is criticizing the ethnic and religious affiliations of the neoconservatives, many of whom happen to be Jewish. This is a debate about the radicalization of American foreign policy, which a growing number of conservatives as well as liberal Democrats agree is dangerous. Are we going to let ourselves be intimidated – mau-maued – into not asking questions about the origins and development of U.S. foreign policy for fear of offending the delicate sensibilities of professional victimologists? The neocons certainly hope so.

But it won't be so easy, this time around. Unlike the 1960s radicals, who, except in academia, never got anywhere near the centers of power, the neocons are a major political faction that exists almost entirely within the Washington Beltway, constituting a key group of second and third-tier government officials, who dominated the policy-making apparatus so effectively in the run-up to war. Although their influence is felt throughout the Leviathan, the neocons have built a particularly large nest in the office of the Vice President and the Pentagon's policy apparatus.

While Cheney spends much of his time in an Undisclosed Location, presumably awaiting the Armageddon his Republican followers crave, the neocons on his staff have been particularly busy, or so it's rumored, sliming Joe Wilson and outing his wife, Valerie Plame, as a CIA agent. Given the reputations of some of the leading neocons, and their various brushes with the law, one might say that they'll pay any price, commit any felony, in the service of their cause.

The rest of Brooks' column is a denial that there is any such creature as a neocon. Behind this is the implication that the internet has caused the "segmentation" of society to such an extent that we all live in our own fantasy world, and "you can ignore inconvenient facts so rigorously that your picture of the world is one big distortion." Gee, that sounds an awful lot like a description of the intelligence-gathering process that lied us into war. Which just goes to show that Brooks is not immune to this "segmentation" syndrome, even though he writes as if he is.

For an ideology that supposedly doesn't exist, neoconservatism sure has plenty of defenders. Max Boot (also in the latest Foreign Policy magazine, not yet online), Joshua Muravchik, Jonah Goldberg, Robert J. Lieber, and last but certainly far from least, Irving Kristol, the "godfather" of the movement, who chose this inconvenient moment to raise the banner of a neoconservative revival in the pages of The Weekly Standard.

According to Brooks, all this talk of neocons being in charge of U.S. foreign policy is identical to "the notion that the world is controlled by well-organized and malevolent forces. And for a subset of these people, Jews are a handy explanation for everything." By giving the neocons "a collective name," Brooks avers, we "rob them of their individual humanity."

Get out the violins!

Do we rob Democrats, Republicans, unprefixed conservatives and unapologetic liberals of their humanity by giving them "a collective name"? Has anybody ever objected, on principle, to this practice of assigning names to various ideological groupings of one sort or another? When someone labels me a libertarian, are they robbing me of my individual humanity – or accurately describing my political views?

Many ideological groupings have leaders of Jewish descent. Libertarians, for example, seem to have a Jewish contingent equal in prominence if not in numbers to the neocons' – Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard, Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman, a list that includes virtually all the intellectual founders of the libertarian movement. How is it that no one has yet hit on the hidden reality of our political lexicon, whereby "libertarian" is really a "code word" for Jew?

No one equates criticism of libertarianism with anti-Semitism for the simple reason that to do so would be nonsensical, just as resentment of the neocons' policies cannot reasonably be attributed to ethnic prejudice directed at a "Yiddish Trilateral Commission."

No one ever takes responsibility for anything anymore. Long gone are the days when a failed leader was expected to fall on his sword. Today, alleged "conservatives" deny authorship of the unfolding disaster in Iraq: not only the bad planning, the seemingly deliberate chaos, but the whole idea of launching an invasion and occupying that country in the first place. The neocons called for this war, they agitated for it, they ached for it – and now they are going to take responsibility for it, one way or another, no matter how much they try to slither out of it.

The War Party, in accordance with their doctrine of "preemptive" war, is launching a preemptive strike against the idea that anyone ought to answer for our failed Iraq policy. To call for the resignation of Wolfowitz, to call for an investigation into the financial shenanigans surrounding Richard Perle's relations with Western governments and private industry, to call for Douglas Feith's head, as many are doing, to purge the government of operatives who won't hesitate to commit a crime – exposing an agent of the CIA – in pursuit of a political agenda: these are "anti-Semitic" acts, one and all, or so we're about to be told.

In my view, the neocon meme is too far advanced to be uprooted by such makeshift tactics, but it looks like they're certainly going to give it a try. That's the neocon method: don't argue, try to shut down all discussion by smearing your opponents. Will they get away with it? Brooks thinks so, and he and his neocon confreres are fearless in their attempt to brazen it out. He writes:

"We'd sit around the [Weekly Standard] magazine guffawing at the ludicrous stories that kept sprouting, but belief in shadowy neocon influence has now hardened into common knowledge. Wesley Clark, among others, cannot go a week without bringing it up."

They dearly wish it was just Wesley Clark. Brooks and his fellow Scoop Jackson Republicans will be laughing out the other side of their mouths when the investigation into who started this war, and why, gets going, and that is precisely what the inquiry into who outed Valerie Plame promises to be. The pace is picking up on that front, and soon we'll see some real action: the bunker-buster that destroys neocon influence in Washington is about to go off.

– Justin Raimondo

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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com. He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against U.S. Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard.

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